I saw this movie, the dance moves look like salsa and appear romantic.

In that case, why is the movie called "Dirty Dancing"?

  • 6
    Keep in mind, this is the same era where they would only show "Elvis the Pelvis" from the waist up because of his "lewd" hip gyrations. (See the section on the "Milton Berle Show".) Dec 22, 2016 at 16:04
  • Why is any movie called "Dirty Dancing"?
    – devinbost
    Dec 22, 2016 at 18:46
  • 8
    (1) Alliteration, and (2) nobody would watch a movie called "romantic dancing". Dec 22, 2016 at 19:43
  • 2
    @user1118321 "this is the same era" -- same era? Dirty Dancing was 20+ years AFTER Elvis was accepted as an entertainer for the whole family.
    – Hejazzman
    Dec 23, 2016 at 9:35
  • 3
    @Hejazzman I think User1118321 means the era in which the movie is set, not when it was released.
    – Matt M
    Dec 23, 2016 at 14:13

2 Answers 2


Because it's not white, formal dancing. Especially in 1950s/1960s upper class culture. That type of dancing is structured, stiff. The dancers have space between them, very proper like. "Dirty Dancing" on the other hand, leaves no space for Jesus. It's basically the 1960s version of having sex on the dance floor.

First, the movie was based on the writer's personal life:

Dirty Dancing is based in large part on screenwriter Eleanor Bergstein's own childhood: she is the younger daughter of a Jewish doctor from New York, spent summers with her family in the Catskills, participated in "Dirty Dancing" competitions, and was herself nicknamed "Baby" as a girl. In 1980, Bergstein wrote a screenplay for the Michael Douglas film, It's My Turn. However, the producers cut an erotic dancing scene from the script, much to her dismay. She then conceived a new story, focused almost exclusively on dancing. In 1984, she pitched the idea to MGM executive Eileen Miselle, who liked it and teamed Bergstein with producer Linda Gottlieb. They set the film in 1963, with the character of Baby based on Bergstein's own life.

Second, her personal life involved Mambo, not Salsa, though most of film is a mix of both and others.

  • 4
    I disagree with your description of "white, formal dancing" as with one where there's a space between dancers. At least one dance doesn't fit this description: waltz. For instance, Viennese waltz dancers are pretty much joined by the cores when dancing properly, their hips are between each other, it's very close contact. Then you have tango, especially Argentine tango. Salsa normally leaves more space between dancers than tango and waltz, though there's more touching by hands of the female by male. That's probably what makes it look "dirtier". Also, it's "mambo" not "mamba" Dec 22, 2016 at 16:23
  • 9
    @Aksakal the waltz was seen as extremely scandalous when it first made its way into Anglophone culture ("No event ever produced so great a sensation in English society as the introduction of the waltz in 1813." – Thomas Raikes). After 150 years it had been acclimatised to.
    – Jon Hanna
    Dec 22, 2016 at 18:49
  • 2
    Sorry, this ( youtube.com/watch?v=tRTVoN95miM ) is pretty much the definition of stiff. And white.
    – Yorik
    Dec 22, 2016 at 22:26
  • 3
    "leaves no space for Jesus" - LMFAO
    – Mazura
    Dec 23, 2016 at 0:46
  • 1
    @Aksakal Also, early versions of the Waltz look very little like what we know as the waltz today. Dec 23, 2016 at 1:58

The "Dirty Dancing" takes place in the partying that the resort staff take part in after their work days end.

Public dancing at the time the movie was set (1963) was a more sedate affair and the gyrations and sexy moves involved in the parties would have "shocked" the suburban parents of the time.

Hence, this type of dancing would have been considered sinful, or dirty.


The staff hold secret after-hours parties in their quarters, and Baby is surprised by the "dirty dancing" they engage in. Intrigued, Baby receives a brief, impromptu dance lesson from Johnny.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .